Even when the Varns are home, the lights are rarely on at 100 percent. “You can save a ton of energy just by dimming the lights a little bit,” says Scott. The lamps in the living room, for example, are set to go to a 40 percent intensity level. They’ll ramp down even further—to 10 percent—when the Varns engage the movie time button on the Control4 handheld remote.
As committed as the Varns are to curbing energy use, they weren’t about to trade all the incandescent bulbs for notably more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs. “Like most older homes, this house has very few overhead lights,” Scott explains. “So there are times when we need 100-watt incandescent bulbs to adequately illuminate the space. We can always dim those lights when we need to.” In some areas like the central stairs and the basement, the Varns opted for Energy Star-rated compact fluorescent bulbs. Although they can’t be dimmed, they use 75 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs.
It’s easy to recognize the green aspects of controllable thermostats and dimmable lighting. The benefits are a little hazy, however, when it comes to entertainment systems. Plasma TVs, amplifiers, receivers and DVD players suck up their fair share of electricity, and the best way to cut their consumption is to simply turn them off. That’s exactly what Scott and Sam do, but with a twist. With the help of their Control4 home management system, the Varns can switch off every A/V component whenever they engage the goodbye or goodnight commands. In addition to eliminating wasteful energy consumption, this setup will help extend the life of the A/V equipment. “That $350 bulb in our Sony video projector will last a lot longer if we keep the projector off when we’re not using it,” says Scott.
Steps in the Right Direction
Going green in a 103-year-old house hasn’t been easy, the Varns admit. “There’s no exact formula: It takes a lot of experimentation and you need to really understand your old house to make green products and systems work for you,” says Scott.
He and Sam lived in their bungalow for six years before jumping on the bandwagon, and when they did, they greened-up their home gradually, making sure that each new addition would provide tangible benefits. “We didn’t want to save pennies to waste dollars,” Scott says. So far, the Varns’ plan seems to be working.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.